It is clear that the priorities of the WBF and the EBL are young people and high level bridge, and these priorities are right. But bridge carries many more values than a standard card game, such as an intellectual challenge and brain training.
The majority of registered bridge players , as well as bridge players in general , are seniors.That is natural if you consider the amount of available time at their disposal. The advantages of playing bridge when one gets old are : brain exercise to avoid or at least delay all kinds of dementia, and keeping social contacts that avoids loneliness, which is known as very high „mortality risk” factor.
That is why we should try to get as many as possible older people to learn bridge. Also, we must try to bring back to bridge those who used to play when they were young, and for various reasons stopped playing.
Leaving senior bridge to run the way it does now, does not appear to be the right strategy. It is surely rather comfortable because we don’t have to do a lot , just cash in the income generated by those who play .In some countries it’s even a good business.
Trying to bring more „elderly” to our game will not only reward them with the a.m. health and social advantages, but also will increase the number of registered bridge players and bring more income to Federations.
Our activity will also promote bridge as an intellectual challenge , promote the health and social benefits brought by our game. Many scientific reports confirm these facts.
Some NBOs are already following that idea . The Dutch Bridge Federation (NBB) was running a program called „Denken en Doen” connecting bridge with other activities.
The Polish Bridge Union is currently running a program named „BRIDGE 60+” creating bridge clubs all around the country with lessons for beginners . Of course 60+ does not mean that we accept only people over 60, it is just an concept designed to give older people an alternative proposal to spend their time.
It will be great if the WBF/EBL member Federations will start activities in this field.
Below I will present the details of the complete program ( let’s call it, for simplicity, BRIDGE60+) trying to answer few questions:
WHY? , HOW? and how to find FINANCING? .
PROGRAM BRIDGE 60+
We already answered this question above but we can elaborate a little more:
1. To keep mental performance of older people
People live longer and the number of cases of Alzheimer ( or other dementias ) is growing rapidly. Many reports , mainly from the USA , confirm what our intuition is telling us : playing bridge prevents or at least delays the risk of dementia. Some reports tell us that playing bridge reduces the chances of getting Alzheimer by as much as 75%.
In Poland within the BRIDGE 60+ program we cooperate with some Universities and started studying this problem to confirm ( that’s what we expect) the USA surveys. There is even a brand new „cognitive science” , interdisciplinary one , analyzing brain function.
Therefore bringing or returning more people to our bridge family should be one of our priorities.
2. Allow older people to come out of loneliness and create more social contacts
Reports tell us also that the mortality risk coming from loneliness or social isolation is much higher then many diseases typical for that age. Our program should help to solve this problem. Creating local communities or adding new people to the existing ones is worth our effort.
Side benefits from this program:
- Federations will have more members.
- We will highlight additional values carried by bridge to those who still consider bridge as a card game, and not what it really is: it a complex strategy game played with the use of cards .
In the majority of NBOs, bridge is based on clubs. To the best of my knowledge Poland is one of the rare countries having a different structure but this is changing.
The main work should be done in clubs. They have facilities ,boards , tables and ,more important, bridge teachers or someone who can teach bridge to beginners . Its clear that teaching older people is a bit different than teaching youngsters, but we can supply clubs with brochures ( script) .All the necessary information for future teachers will be included . It is written by a University professor specialized in this subject.
For recruitment we should use : club members , local government and all kind of local medias. Also in this case we are ready to send to clubs leaflets with all necessary information for future students and arguments why should they start learning.
Beside bridge clubs there are Universities of the Third Age (U3A) . It is easy to offer them bridge lessons and later integrate them in existing clubs as new members.
I am convinced that clubs or local bridge organizations will get support from government in their small communities. If you in addition combine bridge with other kinds of activity ( more about it in offered brochure) they will bless your help.
European Commission (EC) priorities are Active Aging and Lifelong Learning ( now called Erasmus +). Local governments are obliged to implement them both.
In every country there is an Alzheimer Association or another organization to take care of Alzheimer disease. It comes also from an EC directive. Presenting to them scientistic reports about the preventive value of playing bridge will open the door to close cooperation.
It will be helpful if NBOs will supervise and/or coordinate our program. Maybe NBOs do not have enough teachers for seniors to fulfill all the needs of clubs ( perhaps this is too optimistic?) so they will have to run additional courses at the Federation level.
What will be the cost of this program? In fact not very much. We have to pay to the teacher, give an elementary bridge book to participants and some money for the technical costs.
In the West European countries, senior players ( retired people) can easyly pay for lessons and books. They are also able to pay some for membership in the club.
In new EC countries seniors are relatively poor so NBOs can try to get sponsors. It can be local government, the Ministry of Social Services but also private people or institutions ( in Poland these sponsors are Insurance Companies and goverment agencies.)
Finaly , next year we can apply to European Union to get their financial support. If we point out all the benefits of our program ( BRIDGE 60+) we can hope for some subsidies and distribute it among the participating Federations.
We are looking forward to your comments and your participation in „BRIDGE 60 +”.
Regarding the details or any questions please contact :
Marek Małysa – Polish Bridge Union